The Sheffield Apprentice
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Lesley Nelson-Burns

This was printed on numerous broadsides throughout England in the early 1800s. Several of these can be found at the Bodleian Library. Vaughan Williams collected this version in Norfolk, and it appeared in his Folk Songs from the Eastern Counties (1908).

The song is also known as The Sheffield 'Prentice Boy and there is another version, Farewell Lovely Polly, where the apprentice is Cornish. There is also a version in which the apprentice is from Birmingham. In some later versions, the apprentice is from London.

The Sheffield Apprentice was as popular at sea as it was on land, and appears in several songs of the sea collections, including Huntington's Songs the Whalemen Sang and Creighton's Maritime Folk Songs.

I was brought up in Sheffield,
But not of high degree;
My parents doted on me,
They had no child but me;
I roamed about for pleasure,
Where'er my fancy led,
Till I was bound apprentice,
Then all my joys were fled.

I did not like my master,
He did not use me well,
I made a resolution
Not long with him to dwell.
A wealthy rich young lady
From London met me there,
And offered me great wages
To serve her for a year.

I had not been in London
Scarce one month, two or three,
Before my honoured mistress
Grew very fond of me,
She said "I've gold, I've silver,
I've houses and I've land,
If you will marry me
They shall be at your command."

"0 no, dear honoured mistress
I cannot wed you now,
For I have lately promised
Likewise a solemn vow,
To wed with dearest Polly
Your handsome chambermaid,
Excuse me honoured mistress,
She has my heart betrayed!"

She flew into a passion
And turned away from me,
Resolved within herself
She would be revenged on me;
Her gold ring from her finger,
As she was passing by,
She slipped it in my pocket,
And for it I must die.

For that before the justice,
The justice I was brought,
And there before the justice
I answered for my fault;
Long time I pleaded innocent
But that was all in vain,
She swore so false against me
That I was sent to gaol.

On the day of execution,
All on that fatal day,
I prayed the people round me
"0 pray come pity me.
Don't laugh at my downfall,
For I bid this world adieu;
Farewell my dearest Polly,
I died for love of you!"

Related Links
From English County Folk Songs and
Songs the Whalemen Sang
See Bibliography for full information.
Also from Steve Roud's Broadside Index.